Albums of the week - from Dermot Kennedy to The Darkness
Hotly-tipped Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy drops his stellar debut album, while the comeback record from The Darkness does not disappoint.
DERMOT KENNEDY - WITHOUT FEAR
For those who already form part of Dermot Kennedy's large and loyal fanbase, for those who have stood in uncomfortably close quarters with other admirers to watch him perform in increasingly larger venues, the fact that his debut album is an absolute joy will not come as a surprise.
The Irish singer-songwriter, who cut his teeth as a busker before building up a global fanbase of millions on streaming platforms, is the definition of an artist on the cusp of something special. If you were not yet convinced from his previous releases, the staggering undeniable beauty of his first full LP is proof enough that he is a star in the making.
Featuring biggest single so far Outnumbered, and other beloved tracks such as Power Over Me (which has been streamed more than 110 million times on Spotify alone) and Lost, the album is full of more hearty ballads crooned through his raw-edged vocal. The record is subdued where it needs to be, and bold where it doesn't.
9/10: Lucy Mapstone
THE DARKNESS - EASTER IS CANCELLED
Very few bands could survive a tumultuous break up and yet still make harmonious music 16 years after their debut. However, with their sixth studio album, The Darkness have managed a miracle.
Easter Is Cancelled is pitched as the band's first concept album and while the supposed biblical elements of the album are too subtle to cement the idea, the result is divine regardless. The album brings together many elements skilfully, from soulful acoustic to the classic, whimsical rock listeners will be familiar with. Despite the varying styles, the passionate album flows with only minimal jarring.
Occasionally heartfelt and lightly mocking in turns, it is a tongue-in-cheek revival of what we originally loved about The Darkness, and it demands to be listened to repeatedly.
7/10: Jess Glass
SCOUTING FOR GIRLS - THE TROUBLE WITH BOYS
As someone with fond memories of listening to Scouting For Girls as a teenager, the prospect of a new album from the She's So Lovely hit-makers was always going to be an exciting one. The Trouble With Boys is the three-piece's first album since 2015, and, somewhat unbelievably, comes 12 years since their eponymous debut album.
With a musical formula that consistently delivers. Scouting For Girls have maintained their pop-friendly persona for their latest release. On second listen some of the tracks feel slightly cheesy, but does that put me off? Absolutely not.
8/10: Emma Bowden
THE WILDHEARTS - DIAGNOSIS
Having returned in May with their first studio album in a decade, Renaissance Men, The Wildhearts now book-end the accompanying tour with a six-track mini-album which arguably surpasses the standard of the full-length and, building on a title track which appeared on the album, serves a vital purpose in raising and exploring the issue of mental health care.
Diagnosis itself, with its 90-second intro, is better placed here as the lead-out track. God Damn is perhaps the strongest lyrical evocation of an issue frontman Ginger regards as the most important facing the world, while the self-explanatory A Song About Drinking deals with the related topic of addiction.
Amid the weighty lyrics and hard-hitting riffs, the Geordie quartet's ear for a pop hook has been key to their longevity in the industry and is ever-present here - even creeping through amid the industrial thump of expletive-laden closer LOCAC.
8/10: Tom White
AMY STUDT - HAPPIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE
Amy Studt is back with her first album in more than 10 years. Having risen to fame in her teens with a few major hits, including Misfit and Under The Thumb, and popular debut album False Smiles in 2003 before releasing second album My Paper Made Pen in 2007, she vanished from public eye following a breakdown in 2009. Studt has now brushed herself off and used her experiences of depression and recovery to inspire her 11 new tracks.
Throughout the candid album, Studt's voice is both fragile and powerful, and the lyrics weaved over ethereal and haunting music are particularly potent, her mindset completely clear. While not a bad effort the album and its musical restraint wears a bit thin over halfway through.
6/10: Lucy Mapstone